Savannah Battlefield Ceremonies
October 9, 2017
(l. to r.) Mary Ellen Tyszka, Barbara Lemecha, Peter Obst, Ray Okonski, Cecilia Larkin, Marcia Lewandowski, Rick Lapham (president Detroit Friends of Polish Art), Hon. Consul Debbie Majka, Robert Synakowski (president Polish Heritage Club of Syracuse), Richard Larkin, Ambassador RP Piotr Wilczek, Tom Payne (president American Council for Polish Culture)
Photo courtesy of: Cecilia Larkin
Battlefield Ceremonies in Savannah
by Peter Obst
Before the sun rose over Savannah, GA on October 9 re-enactors of Revolutionary War military history affiliated with the Georgia based Coastal Heritage Society (CHS), gathered in the parking lot of the Savannah History Museum. Joining them were friends and interested persons both local and from out of town. The parade, led by a color guard, followed the trail up to the battlefield, retracing the steps of colonial soldiers who marched that way on the same morning in 1779.
The atmosphere was tense as the column approached the redoubt where a bloody encounter of the Revolutionary War took place. For effect, cannon fired blank rounds, setting the atmosphere. On reaching the place of battle the soldiers formed ranks and the civilian guests took their seats. Two of the uniformed re-enactors explained the course of the battle. Emily Beck welcomed those assembled to the event in the name of the Coastal Heritage Society.
In addition to observing the 238th anniversary of the battle, three stone tablets were dedicated for Polish-born heroes of the American Revolution: Gen. Tadeusz Kosciuszko, Gen. Casimir Pulaski and Capt. Jan Zielinski. Poland's Ambassador Piotr Wilczek explained the significance of these three persons in Polish and American history. Kosciuszko was a military engineer who planned defensive fortifications at Ft. Mercer, West Point and the victorious battle at Saratoga. He later returned to Poland and led an insurrection (albeit unsuccessful) to wrest the country from the clutches of the occupying powers of Austria, Prussia and Russia. Casimir Pulaski fought for Polish independence as a cavalry commander in the Bar Confederation. Later he came to America and organized Washington's Continental Cavalry. Ultimately, he laid down his life for the cause of American freedom at the Battle of Savannah. Capt. Jan Zelinski was Pulaski's cousin who led a cavalry unit during the battle of Charleston and eventually died from the wounds he received.
After him spoke Mr. Ray Okonski, of Detroit, who sponsored two of the tablets. The third (for Zielinski) was funded by the Savannah Gen. Pulaski Committee of the American Council for Polish Culture (ACPC). Additional speakers were: Andrew Boguszewski of the Gen. Pulaski Committee and Mrs. Halina Bieniecka an actual descendant from the Pulaski family. She ended her brief comment with a quote from Pres. Donald Trump's speech given in Poland: "The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten."
This is not about to happen, as long as there are organizations like the CHS and the ACPC. Edward Krolikowski, in a uniform of a dragoon from the Pulaski Legion, underscored the importance of the role Pulaski played in creating the American Cavalry. Daniel Fils-Aimé, Chairman of the Haitian American Historical Society, mentioned the presence of Haitian troops (in French uniform) on the field and the unique Polish-Haitian connection. During the Napoleonic Period, Polish Legionnaires in Napoleon's army were sent to quell a slave rebellion on the island. Most of the Poles deserted and joined the rebels. After the Haitian victory, these courageous Poles were granted citizenship and settled on the island.
A number of wreaths were placed on the redoubt by various organizations: the Embassy of the Republic of Poland (Amb. Piotr Wilczek), the ACPC (pres. Tom Payne and Hon. Consul Deborah M. Majka), the Sons of the American Revolution, the Family of Casimir Pulaski, the Sons of the American Revolution and other patriotic organizations. Representing Edward Pinkowski, the Polish-American historian, who could not be present at the ceremony, was his son Jack with wife Monica who placed a wreath on the redoubt. Mr. Jack Pinkowski is president of the Poles in America Foundation started by his father, which is continuing the work of research in Polish-American history. A musket salute was fired in honor of those who fell in battle on the field. White roses were placed on the three new tablets.
After the ceremonies concluded, the participants were invited to a delicious breakfast set out in one of the buildings belonging to the Savannah State Railroad Museum. There Joan and Mel Gordon were signing their new historical novel Pulaski: The Forgotten Hero of Two Worlds.
Thanks to Mr. Ray Okonski and the Savannah Gen. Pulaski Committee of the ACPC proper tribute was given to three Polish heroes of the American Revolution. Keeping their memory alive is a duty we owe them for sacrificing so much to win the liberties which we enjoy today. Those who would like to support the ACPC in its mission and learn more about its activities should look at the website: www.polishcultureacpc.org
Photographs from the Coastal Heritage Society: go to Photo Set 1
Photographs by Cecilia Larkin: go to Photo Set 2
Photographs by Peter Obst
The evening dinner at "Billy's Place"
Monica and Jack Pinkowski with Ray Okonski
Rick Lapham and Ambassador Piotr Wilczek
Assembling in the morning with the Colonial Era re-enactors
(l. to r.) Glen Ball, Edward Krolikowski (in the uniform of a dragoon from the Pulaski Legion) and Bruce Trimbur
Ambassador Piotr Wilczek gives his speech
New Stone Tablets on the Battlefield
Poland's Ambassador Piotr Wilczek and Hon. Consul Debbie Majka
Ray Okonski, Poland's Ambassador Piotr Wilczek, Hon. Consul Debbie Majka, Edward Krolikowski in dragoon's uniform
the musket salute
Jack and Monica Pinkowski at breakfast
Book Signing - Cecilia Larkin and author Joan Gordon